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What is the process of a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment (PESA)?

Database Search


We obtain Federal, State, County and Municipal regulated databases within 1 mile of your property. We survey the records and determine if your property, the neighboring property or a surrounding property is regulated or has a known or suspect release to the environment.

City Directories


City Directories are crisscross phone books listed by street name. We search for environmentally sensitive businesses, such as dry-cleaners, plating facilities, and gas stations that at one time may have occupied your property or your neighbor’s property.

Fire Insurance Maps


Fire Insurance Maps are highly detailed drawings of urbanized areas and can include environmental data such as the occupant, location of underground storage tanks, presence of chemicals, and much more. We survey these maps if available in the property location to identify potential environmental concerns.

Historic Aerials


Aerial photographs are available for almost every year dating back to 1938 for most areas. Historic aerials will show the change of use of a property over time. For example, when a property changed from agricultural to residential or commercial/industrial use. A3E surveys the photographs closely to create a timeline of use for the property.

Survey & FOIA


We interview the past and current property owners, key site managers, occupants, and government officials to obtain information about the history of the property. In addition, we submit Freedom of Information Requests (FOIAs) to gather data on file with local, state and federal agencies. We use this information to scrutinize or clarify certain issues and elements with regard to the property.

Site Visit


We send an Environmental Professional, trained in spotting the telltale signs of environmental issues to your property for a walkthrough. Nothing beats experienced eyes inspecting your site. Our inspections usually take about an hour, depending on the size, and we take a lot of pictures. Sometimes the inspections lead to more questions. We won't leave you hanging, we find the answers.



The final step is a report generated under the industry standard that is accepted by banks and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Most Phase 1 ESAs come back fine, while others will identify what are called Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) which may need further investigation. That deeper dive to understand the RECs is called a Phase 2 ESA.

Frequently Asked Questions About Preliminary Environmental Site Assessments (PESA)

A Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment (PESA) is the exact same as a Phase 1 ESA only instead of the investigation being done on a particular commercial property, it’s performed on a corridor of Rights of Way (ROW). Essentially it’s a long and narrow Phase 1 ESA which seeks to find all the possible environmental impacts along the corridor which is being assessed. If you’re with a financial lending institution looking for a Preliminary ESA, you are most likely looking for a Transaction Screen Assessment (TSA) which can be found by clicking through the link. They are frequently mistaken for PESA.

Before we get too deep, you should check out this post describing what a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. It will give you a good base of understanding about PESA’s.

Who Needs a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment?

Governments; State Departments of Transportation, Counties and Municipalities typically purchase PESA’s. Governments who are putting in infrastructure like roads and water mains need to understand the environmental conditions around the area they are working in. These road and pipeline projects are linear in nature and cross the Rights of Way of many other land owners. Whereas a Phase 1 ESA typically covers a property owner inside a particular set of parcels, a PESA covers all the land owners along the project corridor. A good example of this would be a road widening along a state highway which passes several dry cleaners, gas stations and industrial parks. Any one of the nearby land uses could contaminate the ROW.

Why Do Governments Purchase Preliminary Environmental Site Assessments?

Governments are interested in the contamination along the corridor for several reasons.

  • They are concerned with contamination for worker exposure. Construction workers potentially exposed to contamination is a health and safety risk and precautions may be required for the workers.
  • They need to budget for the project. Contaminated soil is expensive to haul off-site, Clean Construction Demolition Debris (CCDD) soil is less expensive to haul off but must be clean. Soil can be reused on-site but must be clean, so there could be costs associated with bringing in backfill.
  • Contamination travels along infrastructure such as pipelines. Putting a pipeline through a contaminated area is almost certainly going to transmit the contamination along the pipe, spreading it to adjacent properties.

How Long Does It Take to Do a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment?

The time to do a PESA is dependent on the area covered. A PESA can cover miles of roadway or pipeline. If the area is relatively small, expect it to take the same amount of time as a Phase 1 ESA, about 10 to 15 days.

What Does a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment Cost?

Again, this depends on the size of the corridor which is being studied but figure about $2000 to start.

How Long is a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment Good For?

A PESA is typically used once and done. They aren’t referred back to for financing like a Phase 1 ESA.

Who Performs a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment?

The majority of PESAs are completed internally by the requesting government agency. They are rarely completed by consultants; however, municipalities typically don’t complete them internally and will request the assistance of a consultant. A3 Environmental Consultants does PESA’s in all 50 States. We are headquartered in Chicago Illinois but perform Phase 1 ESAs across the country at a rate of about 50 a month. We can also be a second set of eyes on the report to make sure it’s all correct.

Is A Site Visit Required for a Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment?

Yes, absolutely. As with the ASTM standard Phase 1 ESA (E1527-13), a site visit is required.

What Happens If There Are Recognized Environmental Concerns (REC) Identified In My PESA?

First off, they aren’t called Recognized Environmental Concerns (REC) in the context of a PESA. Concerns are classified as No Concern, Low, Medium or High Risk. High risk would indicate that a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) which is the equivalent of a Phase 2 ESA.

What Else Do I Need To Know about Preliminary Environmental Site Assessments?

Our Corporate Clients


Kind words from our clients.

Kay Pentzien

Real Estate Developer

The A3 Environmental Team completed both a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 for our property and Patrick and I couldn't be more pleased with the work they did!

Ross DePaul

Mergers & Acqusitions

I thoroughly enjoyed working with A3E on our Phase 1 studies. We were running up against some deadlines, and they jumped through hoops to get everything completed on time.

Daniela Fitzgerald


The A3E team did a great job on our Phase 1 report. They were quick , thorough and professional. They were able to give me all of the information that I needed.

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Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment

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Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

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